Photograph of British Army nurse (Catalogue reference: INF 6/985)

This is a brief guide to researching records of nurses who served with the British army. These records are varied and can be complicated. They are also incomplete. While most of the relevant records can be found at The National Archives, some material is also held by the Ministry of Defence and the Red Cross.

  • What do I need to know before I start?

    • Try to find out:

      • the name of the person
      • the name of the nursing service
      • a geographical location and date range to help focus your search
  • What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

    • Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps service records (1939-1945)

      Visit the GOV.UK website for information about how to request a summary of a service recorda document recording the career of an individual in the armed forces from the Ministry of Defence. These are not available to members of the general public, though next of kin may request access to them.

    • Voluntary Aid Detachment records (1914-1920, 1939-1945)

      Contact the British Red Cross museum and archives for the service record of a person who served in a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) during the First World War or Second World War.

Did you know?

Before the 1850s, British army medical services were organised by regiment and consisted of male nurses only.

The majority of military nurses in the First and Second World Wars served in the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS); renamed the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC) in 1949.

The Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service was originally called the Army Nursing Service (1884-1902). No significant records of the Army Nursing Service have survived.

Many original army service records do not exist as they were destroyed by German bombing in 1940.

Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) were non-military organisations created in 1909 and based on the Japanese voluntary aid system. Members were trained by the St John Ambulance Brigade and served alongside all branches of the armed forces.